Making Waiting Rooms Safe Post-COVID
Written by Patrick M
Wellness clinics, dental clinics and other facilities that offer medical services will be looking to adjust their waiting rooms to be safe and sanitary in the coming months. While it is recommended to limit your customers from waiting in a traditional waiting room setting in any capacity, we want to provide you with some information that will help with this transition period.
Here, we will walk through a few strategies around office cleaning routines, approaches to reconfigured layouts for existing waiting rooms and customer flow and check-in patterns that your business is recommended to follow.
Cleaning Routine and Seating Arrangements
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a major emphasis on continual deep cleaning of office waiting rooms and common spaces. Examples of these areas include (but are not limited to):
All frequently-touched surfaces (such as reception desks, check-in kiosks, iPad screens, etc.)
Seating area chairs/tables (which should be kept to a limit of 4)
Door handles and railings
Hand sanitizer dispensers should also be visibly located at the entrance of the office space and outside the washroom(s). These should be checked mid-day and re-filled if needed. Washrooms should be easily accessible and not require a key.
It is recommended to remove all children’s toys and magazines from the waiting room, as these are also exposed to frequent handling and thus provide easy ways to spread the virus. There should also be a virtual and physical log of the cleaning schedule available so that patrons can see the frequency of when it is being done (for example, recreation facilities, gyms and restaurants already commonly practice this procedure).
It is also recommended that waiting room chairs are rearranged so that patients maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and other people. Disposable masks, gloves and hand sanitizer should also be available as an option to provide to patients.
Payment cards, identification and other commonly exchanged items (such as health or insurance cards) should be visually inspected, but not handled.
Customer Flow Pattern and Check-In
Customer flow will be different for every space and facility, depending on factors such as square footage and the amount of open space in the reception area to manage.
A recommended best practice is the use of floor stickers or decals to indicate proper space distancing for individuals (6 feet between each person), as well as the route that a patron should use when entering/exiting private offices and navigating throughout the common area of the office space (which should be kept to a minimum). This will ensure a standard of safe distancing for staff and clients with varying degrees of health concerns, as well as avoid groups of people forming within a confined space. The idea is to create a pre-set path for clients, so that their path does not cross with that of another individual.
The decal floor signage approach should be paired with a virtual waiting room strategy. Clients usually check in when they arrive at the parking lot or on the way to the appointment, as well as wait in their vehicles or nearby until they are ready to be seen. A notification via text message when the person is ready to be seen will prevent groups of customers from clustering at the entrance of your business — which isn’t safe and which doesn’t present itself well to other potential clients from a safety standpoint.
Entry to the office space should be limited to the specific individual that the meeting is scheduled for. There should not be anyone accompanying the customer unless physical assistance is required due to mobility issues or for minors who need a parent or guardian present.
Lastly, clients should be instructed to vacate the premises immediately following their scheduled appointment. This should be communicated verbally, with appropriate signage and via text message notifications. This will help provide procedural instructions for the visit immediately upon checking in virtually.
Making Services Digital
Another ideal approach is to pivot appointment scheduling services to a digital booking system, which eliminates the need for a physical waiting room altogether.
The client should also receive a text message questionnaire to verify that they have not experienced any symptoms related to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. This will help to ensure safety for all parties involved. Once this has been completed and the person conducting the meeting is ready, the customer will be notified on their mobile device to enter the building. The customer can then seamlessly check-in and enter the office safely, increasing the likelihood that they will want to return and feel secure visiting your business. The customer should be limited from “checking in” until they reach a certain proximity of the meeting location, to ensure an efficient process and stay as close to the scheduled appointment time as possible for every client booking in.
From our team at COVIDsafe, we hope this information will offer some guidance for clinics needing to adopt new requirements and meet new safety expectations in a post-COVID climate.
Please keep in mind that these are general guidelines to help you form a plan that works for your business. They have been based on areas that our team has identified, which we hope will help build a framework that provides long-term solutions for both your clinic and your patients. It is our goal to help small businesses ensure a safe and customer-friendly environment for your patients going forward.